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Coronavirus update: Scientists try to explain the summer spike, the school debate goes on

State and local jurisdictions are getting tough on enforcement

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 3,323,432 (3,131,953)

Total U.S. deaths: 135,272 (133,420)

Total global cases: 12,970,605 (12,323,502)

Total global deaths: 570,220 (555,977)

Scientists miscalculated how summer would affect the virus

During the lockdown days of March and April, scientists all agreed that the coronavirus (COVID-19) would be less of a threat once summer rolled around. Instead, the pandemic has only gotten worse.

In Florida on Sunday, there were more than 15,000 new cases reported, the most in any one day in any state. Scientists now say several factors could be responsible for the miscalculation.

They say early models were based on a higher level of immunity in the population, which hasn’t materialized. They also say they expected warm weather to kill the virus on surfaces, but it turns out very few cases are caused by contaminated surfaces.

No agreement on reopening schools

This is normally the time for back-to-school planning and shopping, but as of now, the school year is one big question mark in many jurisdictions. At the national level, political and public health leaders can’t seem to get on the same page.

The New York Times has published what it says is an internal memo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that makes a case against sending children back to the classroom in the fall.

The 69-page document warns that a full reopening of schools this fall -- including colleges and universities -- would carry the “highest risk” for the spread of the virus. The internal memo was reportedly produced to guide policymakers as they make decisions about how to handle the school year.

Governments step up enforcement penalties

They tried asking nicely, but that doesn’t seem to be working. So now some state and local jurisdictions are stepping up penalties for citizens who defy pandemic mitigation measures.

A Calfornia county upped its fine for businesses that violate COVID-19 virus prevention orders to $10,000. Arizona suspended one gym’s liquor license for not closing as the governor ordered.

Even individuals may face stiffer penalties. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says people who don’t wear masks in public in accordance with an order taking effect today will face a $500 fine.

Two experimental vaccines get ‘fast track’ status

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reportedly granted “fast track” status to two COVID-19 vaccines being jointly developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. The companies announced the new designation in a joint statement.

The vaccines, identified as BNT162b1 and BNT162b2, are said to have shown the most promise in tests so far as the companies have worked with various experimental medicines. 

The companies say they hope to make up to 100 million doses by the end of 2020 if the trials produce the desired results and the vaccines receive FDA approval.

Tensions grow between White House and Dr. Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has been a key White House health adviser since the beginning of the pandemic. Lately, he’s been getting the cold shoulder from the White House.

Fauci in recent weeks has expressed alarm at the spiking number of coronavirus cases and has called for increased mitigation measures, a stance at odds with President Trump’s push to reopen the economy.

Over the weekend, the tension became public as a White House official issued a statement to CNN saying that "several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things." 

Around the nation

  • Florida: Despite a record-setting outbreak of the coronavirus in the state, bar owners are pushing back against restrictions. Some Orlando bar owners have joined a lawsuit against Gov. Ron DeSantis over the state’s prohibition on alcohol sales during the pandemic.

  • California: While some “hot spot” states continue to see increases in new COVID-19 cases, California has seen cases level off and even decline. However, the state health department reports that the number of hospitalizations from the virus is still climbing.

  • Utah: Utah suffered its deadliest week of the pandemic last week. The Utah Health Department reported 629 new cases of the virus Sunday, along with three more deaths.

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